Delhi to Downton: Winning bid led Munjals to Crawleys
In March this year, Hero Future Energies's Rahul Munjal had bid Rs 4 lakh for a day on the set of Downton Abbey at a charity auction.
Munjal and his wife, Pooja, recently spent a day at the Highclere Castle, in the UK, where the British period drama is being filmed. In March this year, Munjal had bid Rs 4 lakh for a day on the show's set at a charity auction at the second edition of One World Retreat, hosted by Gaj Singh II of Jodhpur. It was one of the "experiences" that went under the hammer at the auction curated by Christie's.
Being Lord Grantham's guests
With filming for the show's final season currently underway in the UK, the Munjals had to make haste and found themselves on set at 10.30 am on June 23. As they walked the 300-odd metres distance to Downton from the entrance, they were enchanted by the estate.
"The property is gorgeous, surrounded by lawns, spreading in all directions. The castle itself is not as big as it appears on the screen though," says Munjal. When he asked one of the crew members about the exact size of the property, he was told, "Look in all four directions. As far as the eye goes."
At the doors of Downton, they were greeted by Lord Grantham himself. "Hugh Bonneville (who plays Lord Grantham on the show) came out with his arms wide open and said to me, 'Rahul, we've been waiting for you,'" gushes Munjal, recalling the welcome, "He is an absolutely gracious and lovely person."
The couple were then given a tour of the "house", taking in the library where the Crawley family often gathers for their afternoon tea, the grand staircase that Lady Mary walked down as a bride and the dining room, which has been central to many a crucial twist on the show. They also managed to see the trailers that house the elaborate costumes, wigs and hats.
And when the shooting was on, they'd sit behind the cameras and watch. "As the sequences are so elaborate, they manage to shoot just a couple of shots in a day," says Munjal.
(In photo: Munjal and his wife Pooja with actor Hugh Bonneville, who plays the patriarch, Lord Grantham.)
Meeting the Crawley family
Apart from Lord Grantham, Munjal also met with the ladies of the house, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael). "They are stunning. Lady Edith (Carmichael) is fantastic to watch when she is acting. She comes alive," says Munjal.
He also saw the head butler Carson (Jim Carter), who is as passionate about cricket in real life as his onscreen persona.
The one regret Munjal has about his visit was being unable to see the acerbic Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith). She was not shooting that day.
That disappointment may have been mitigated partly by a lunch of quiches and strawberries and fresh cream. Food is integral to Downton, featuring in many shots. But the crew have found their balance.
"They (the cast) said that they've learnt to eat little in each shot. Otherwise, by the tenth take, they end up being full," says Munjal.
The couple's visit was peppered with similarly interesting conversations. But when asked if they discussed the upcoming season, Munjal answers in the negative. "They are a professional lot. They don't divulge any information," he says. Sorry, no spoilers here.